Mactan Shrine: The Symbol of the True Filipino Grit

The 20-foot bronze statue of Datu Lapu-Lapu which serves as the main point of interest of the Shrine

Beyond the typical exterior of the Mactan Shrine park, where both public and private transportation traverse forming part of the daily grind of Punta Engaño, Lapu-Lapu City lies the hallow ground, where one fateful day a long time ago, a fierce battle was fought in the name of freedom and love. That battle was then centuries later dubbed as the ‘Battle of Mactan’.

The Battle of Mactan: The Fight that Started It All

One cannot separate the relevance of the Battle of Mactan from the Mactan Shrine or the significance of the latter from the former in as far as the parallel historical connotation of both is concerned. As the Battle of Mactan planted the very first seed of nationalism and autonomy along the then [perhaps] jagged coast of Mactan Island, the Mactan Shrine, in turn opines this gallant crusade, embracing fervently the memories of the perilous adventure in the dim and distant past.

On March 16, 1521, Ferdinand Magellan (a.k.a. Fernão de Magalhães) a Portuguese explorer and conquistador commissioned by Spain made his first landing in the Philippines via Homonhon Island, in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, where he openly claimed a portion of the Philippine archipelago, specifically the ones he had seen as part of the possessions of the King of Spain and as such, named them ‘Islas de San Lazaro’ or ‘Archipelago of Saint Lazarus’.

A few weeks after, Magellan and his crew proceeded with their journey and reached the Island of Cebu, on April 7, 1521, which, at that time was under the kingship of Rajah Humabon. Magellan was auspicious in befriending the local chieftain, and in fact, was as well equally successful in converting the royal family, their kin, and some less than 1000 natives to Christianity. This friendship later ensured allegiance and submission of the nearby local chieftains to the Spanish crown, except for one local chieftain in Mactan Island named Datu Lapu-Lapu.

It is to be noted that in Mactan Island, there were two local chieftains leading two different tribes. One was Datu Zula—who pledged allegiance to Magellan, and thus, accepted the Spanish rule, and the other one was Datu Lapu-Lapu who vehemently resisted the idea.

The Cause of the Battle:

A painting depicting the heroic Battle of Mactan in 1521 featuring Datu Lapu-Lapu and Ferdinand Magellan

Datu Zula, for his part accepted the friendship of Magellan, and hence, swore loyalty to the king of Spain.  Therefore, to uphold his vow, on April 26, 1521, he purposed to send one of his sons to bring two live goats as presents to Magellan as a sign of his loyalty and thus, to fulfill his promise of allegiance; however, this action was preempted by Datu Lapu-Lapu and barred Datu Zula from taking such an action. This provocative act by Lapu-Lapu further deepened the rift between the two Mactan rulers. Datu Zula, unable to send his presents because of Lapu-Lapu’s intervention, bid Magellan to send a boatload of men so he could fight Lapu-Lapu. Instead of one, Magellan nonetheless, sent three boatloads, with sixty of his men, himself included to personally lead the attack. Some of his men disapproved his decision of joining the invasion, but Magellan did not pay heed. Confident of their imminent victory, Magellan tagged along Rajah Humabon to witness the supposed looming European triumph.

Three hours before dawn, on April 27, 1521, Magellan and his troops landed on the sleeping coast of Mactan Island. With the help of a local Muslim merchant who acted as Magellan’s interpreter, Magellan admonished Lapu-Lapu to surrender, yet the latter was still formidably defiant. The premature attack did not happen right away, but Magellan and his men returned to their boats and had to postpone their plan of invasion until in the morning.

According to some historians, Magellan’s victory could be easily guaranteed if not for the terrain of the battleground. Accordingly, the sea was brimming with rock and corals which hindered Magellan’s boats, especially the large ones from approaching the shore and the huge fleets from firing munitions as a support. In fact, Magellan and some of his men had to paddle ‘three crossbow flights’ just to reach the coastline.

With forty-nine men including himself, Magellan undertook a ‘suicidal’ attack against Lapu-Lapu’s approximately 1,500 men, based on the recorded chronicle of Antonio Pigafetta. In this vantage, being under-numbered would mean a clear and easy defeat for Magellan and his men. But it was not the case. Armed with warfare and battle strategies far more advanced than that of the natives’, not to mention the impenetrable battle outfits which seemed invincible, they were still at leverage.

The battle was orchestrated in a manner that Lapu-Lapu’s warriors grouped themselves into three, while Magellan divided his troops into two. Lapu-Lapu’s men attacked the two groups of Magellan around and in front, while Magellan, on the other hand, instructed his men to engage the local fighters with arquebuses and crossbows, and consequently backed with the firing of missiles. Comparing with Europeans’ sturdy war paraphernalia, the native warrior’s spirit remained tenacious. Apparently, the mishandling of the missile usage caused the then-approaching defeat of the Europeans. The wasteful firing of the missiles held up the upper-hand position of the Europeans for but half an hour only, after which, Lapu-Lapu countered Magellan’s missiles by launching a barrage of bows and poisoned arrows, even with some stones.  However, the fired weapons seemed to have a little effect as there was only a recorded of eight Europeans who were killed in the entire course of the battle.

The Europeans were wearing ‘corselets and helmets’, and as a consequence, the fired missiles stood a little chance in puncturing their armors. Despite the seemingly invincible front of the invaders, the local warriors’ spirit remained intact.  In Magellan’s attempt to distract the local warriors, he ordered two of his men to burn the huts of the natives, which fueled the native warriors’ rage even more. As their fury mounted, they showered more poisoned arrows, which acutely hit Magellan in the legs. It was not clear though if it was a lucky hit on the part of the native warriors or it was a contemplated shot that aimed on the exposed legs of their opponents.

Magellan called for a withdrawal of troops. Most of his men were demoralized, and some fled away, leaving Magellan with only six or eight men to protect him. To ensure the safety of his remaining troops, Magellan with the (six or eight) eight remaining men, covered the retreating soldiers.

According to Pigafetta’s journal, there were only a total of eight deaths, and a large number of unspecified wounded in the part of the Europeans, while, he accounted fifteen killed and an unspecified number of fatalities in the side of Lapu-Lapu.

Mactan Shrine: A Symbol of Valiancy

The four-sided obelisk engraved with the names of Ferdinand Magellan, Princess Ysabel of Spain, et. al., vis-a-vis the bronze statue of Lapu-Lapu.

Many centuries have passed, the very first act of nationalism to defy foreign rule still remained in the hearts of the Filipinos, and as a commemoration to this gallant act, in the very place where the historical Battle of Mactan was instigated was erected a shrine in memory of the greatness of the early Filipinos led by Datu Lapu-Lapu.

The Mactan Shrine is encapsulated in a public park dotted with trees and a variety of tropical floras that accommodates family picnics, outings, lovers’ rendezvous, and sightseeing destination for those curious souls who want to remember the enormity of distant past.

Within the square are souvenir shops, refreshment stalls, and a four-sided obelisk engraved with the names of Hernando de Magallanes (Ferdinand Magellan), as well as Reinando Ysabel II and the words ‘Glorias Españolas’ and ‘Siendo Gobernador Don Miguel Creus’ on each facet. A few meters away towards the coast is where the 20-feet bronze statue of Datu Lapu-Lapu—the locus of the Shrine is situated. In front of the statue is the platform where the actual Battle took place.

The setting of the actual Battle of Mactan in low tide. The platform also serves as the venue  where the yearly re-enactment of the said battle is staged in the ‘Kadaugan sa Mactan’ festival.

To honor the brave and heroic feat of Lapu-Lapu and his warriors against the foreign invaders led by Magellan, the local government of Lapu-Lapu City launched the ‘Kadaugan sa Mactan’ in 1981, and has since then became an annual festival.

The ‘Kadaugan sa Mactan’ or ‘Bahugbahug sa Mactan’ is a week-long festival which commences with a street dancing, and culminates with the re-enactment of the Battle of Mactan at the Mactan Shrine every morning of April 27th, where the start of the dramatization depends greatly on the condition of the tide.

Heritage and Sites

See Also:

Fort San Pedro-A Reminder of Cebu’s Colorful Past

A Relic in Itself: Museo Parian

Cebu City–The Queen City of the South


Fort San Pedro-A Reminder of Cebu’s Colorful Past


Fort San Pedro or Fuerte de San Pedro is known to be the oldest Spanish fortification in the Philippines. The triangular-shaped fortress whose two sides look out onto the sea, while the remaining side faces the land—a strategic position at that time to carefully observe the immediate environs, thus protecting the Spanish settlement effectively, is the smallest citadel in the country with a total interior area of 2,025 meters square.

Its towers are 30 feet high from the ground, with walls of 20 feet in height, and 8 feet in thickness. Imagine an average one-storey wall-height of a typical house in the Philippines and turn it horizontal-wise. That would serve as the thickness of Fort San Pedro’s limestone walls!

Built in 1565, with the main purpose of border defense and/or land claim, it was originally constructed out of wood in the coastal area of the present Cebu City, specifically in the adjacent grounds of the present-day Plaza Independencia under the mandate of the Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, the first Spanish governor-general of the Philippines. Hence, Fort San Pedro served not only as a fort, but as a garrison as well to defend the [first] Spanish enclave in the Philippines—the Villa del Santisimo Nombre de Jesus (Village of the Most Holy Name of Jesus), in what is today called as Cebu City.

Metamorphoses and Renovations


Over the years, the citadel underwent several metamorphosis and renovations. From the initial wooden structure, the fort many years later welcomed a new anatomy of stone mortar construction, as a defense to the intermittent uprisings of the displeased natives. By 1898, Fuerte de San Pedro fell to the hands of the Cebuano revolutionaries when the Americans under the command of Commodore George Dewey subjugated the Spanish fleets in the Battle of Manila Bay, which marked the fall of Spain. The said battle resulted in the cession of the Philippine archipelago by Spain to the United States.

During the American regime, the fort served initially as the American barracks, after which, in 1937-1941, it was transformed into a school, where Cebuanos were given formal education.

During World War II, that is, from 1942 to 1945, with the successful invasion of Japan, the fort served as the Japanese stronghold. However, it was converted into an emergency hospital to accommodate the wounded in the fight to liberate Cebu from the Japanese Imperial forces later on. Then by 1946-1950, Fort San Pedro functioned as an army camp then following 1950, the Cebu Garden Club assumed the management of the fort, renovated its interiors, and laid out a mini-garden.

Despite of the heavy ruins, the fort was still functional, the upper deck, at least, were used as offices. Its almost-demise came with the announcement of then mayor Sergio Osmeña Jr. to demolish the place and erect in place of it the new Cebu City Hall; nevertheless, it was impeded by massive protests and demonstrations.

After the nearly-demise, Fort San Pedro was used again to house a zoo, which was managed by a religious sect. However, by 1968, the zoo was relocated and the serious and tedious effort to restore the ruined fort started.

Outside the walls of the existing Fort San Pedro are the separate individual statues of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, the first Spanish Governor-General of the Philippines, who commanded the building of the fort; and Antonio Pigafetta, the Italian chronicler who joined Ferdinand Magellan’s mission, and who was among the three people who first circumnavigated the world.

 Fort San Pedro Today


At present, Fort San Pedro is used as a museum where it houses the Spanish memorabilia and artifacts like documents, files, and the original Spanish flag, as well as some exhibits involving the important rulers of Cebu City, some mini-galleons, and the Cebuano fighters.

Apart from that, the interior garden of the fort sometimes hosts private functions, cultural events, and wedding receptions and is also favorite spot for pre-nuptial pictorials.

And finally, with its relaxing surrounding, Fort San Pedro is also a popular destination for family bonding, romantic rendezvous, and for friendly meet up venue, as well.


Heritage and Sites

See Also:

Cebu City–The Queen City of the SouthCebu City–The Queen City of the South

A Relic in Itself: Museo ParianA Relic in Itself: Museo Parian

Cebu City–The Queen City of the South

A welcome board on Legazpi Extension.

Cebu City also known as ‘Dakbayan sa Sugbo’ in Cebuano, is located in the central part of the Philippines. Being the capital of Cebu province, and of Region 7, i.e., the Central Visayas Region, it is considered to be one of the giant economic powerhouses of the Philippines, next to the Imperial Manila, with industries sprawling from BPOs, tourism, banking and finance, service, hospitality, shipping, and manufacturing enterprises. Thus, it is not a surprise when it is referred to as the ‘Queen City of the South’.

It is said that Cebu got its name from the Cebuano phrase ‘Sinibuayng hingpit’ which literally means ‘place for trade’, which was later on abridged to ‘Sibu’ or ‘Sibo’ meaning ‘trade’. Other variation of its etymology is ‘Sebu’ which suggests ‘animal fat’.  Still others, as history would point out, ‘Sugbo’ the local name of Cebu was coined after its founder Sri Lumay’s  (a prince of the Hindu Chola dynasty of Sumatran origin) winning stratagems in the extermination of the Moro pirates, as immortalized in his gallant ‘scorched earth’ war tactics called ‘Kang Sri Lumaying Sugbo’, which means, ‘that of Sri Lumay’s great fire’, hence, ‘Sugbo’ means ‘great fire’.

Prior to the arrival of the Spaniards, Cebu was known to be a fishing village which gradually transformed in to a trading community. It has an organized social structure, headed by a rajah. A long time ago, Cebu City was a component of the island ‘Pulua Kang Dayang’ or ‘Kangdaya’ which formed part the Rajahnate of Cebu, an ancient Philippine state and was ruled by Sri Lumay  (or alternatively called ‘Rajamuda Lumaya’), a half-Tamil, half-Malay native ruler.

 Cebu’s modern history can be traced back to Spain’s first attempt to conquer lands in the Far East by virtue of its territorial expansion under the guise of finding spices at Moluccas Island, and that expedition was spearheaded by Ferdinand Magellan.

The Spaniards’ presence was first felt on April 7, 1521 upon the arrival of Magellan in Cebu. He befriended the incumbent ruler at that time, Rajah Humabon, the grandson of Sri Lumay, and converted him and his wife, Hara Amihan to Christianity including some less than 1000 natives. As a gift, he bestowed to the king and the queen the image of Sto. Nino, which is at present housed at the Basilica Minore del Santo Nino. To further mark the Christianization of the island, Magellan then planted (or as some source claimed, ordered his men to plant) the so-called Magellan’s cross, and that consequently transpired to mark Spain’s first colonization attempt of the Philippines. Shortly after though, on April 27, 1521, Magellan was killed in the famous Battle of Mactan, in the hands of Lapu-Lapu, a native ruler of the adjacent island, Mactan. It was said that after Magellan’s death, Rajah Humabon poisoned Magellan’s remaining men on account of threat of foreign occupation. Rajah Tupas, Sri Humabon’s nephew was the last ruler of Sugbo.

A few years after Spain’s first futile attempt to colonize Cebu came Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. De Legazpi brought with him the Augustinian friars that marked the first diaconate presence not only in Cebu, but all over the Philippines. By virtue of the Treaty of Cebu concluded between Rajah Tupas and de Legazpi, the formal mandate of the possession of Cebu City on behalf of the King of Spain took place. As a result, Legazpi founded the first Spanish settlement in 1565 and called the city ‘Villa de San Miguel de Cebu’, and later called Villa del Santisimo Nombre de Jesus, thus making Cebu the oldest city, anteceding Manila for 7 years.

The growing territory was then fortified by building the military fortress ‘Fuerte de San Pedro’ (Fort San Pedro) located in the area currently called Plaza de Independencia. The fortification, despite being the smallest in size in structure, is said to be the nucleus of the Spanish settlement.

With the advent of trade exchange, the Spanish colonization became extensive. Seven years after it conquered Cebu, de Legazpi’s troops moved toward Manila.

Spain’s appetite for power was insatiable. Its further usurpation of the Philippine islands resulted to their treacherous and malicious machination of countering Filipinos against each other. Because of their greed for power, corruption was rampant, hence, coercing the Filipinos to widespread nationwide uprisings. In Cebu, General Leon Kilat led the insurrection against the Spanish conquistadors on April 3, 1898 where he staged his revolutionary war on the present-day streets of V. Rama and Leon Kilat. The three-day revolt ended, unfortunately, with the treacherous murder of Gen. Leon Kilat and the arrival of the back-up native fighters from Iloilo. Some memorabilia of the aforementioned uprising are exhibited at the Fort San Pedro Museum as well as at Museo Sugbo.

By virtue of the Treaty of Paris, Spain ceded the entire Philippine archipelago to the United States until the establishment of the Commonwealth government, which would prepare the Philippines to its full independent status. One of the highlights of this era was the ratification of the bill Commonwealth Act 58, granting Cebu City its ‘independent Chartered City’ status. The bill was authored by Sen. Vicente Rama, who then later on was considered as the ‘Father of Cebu City’. On February 24, 1937, the City was inaugurated. Sworn as the first mayor was Hon. Alfredo V. Jacinto who was appointed by Pres. Manuel Quezon. By virtue of Republic Act No. 244, the first appointed Vice Mayor was Hon. Arsenio Villanueva who took his office on July 16, 1948. The first elected Mayor though was Hon. Sergio Osmeña Jr., and Hon. Ramon Duterte as the Vice-Mayor.

Being the oldest city in the Philippines, Cebu boasts of the many historical firsts and in the country which include Colon Street as the oldest street, University of San Carlos (formerly known as ‘Colegio de San Ildefonso’) as the oldest school not only in the country, but also in Asia, Fort San Pedro as the oldest fort / fortification, and The Jesuit House Museum as the oldest documented house built in 1730, are some of the source of pride of Cebu City.

Heritage and Sites

See also:

A Relic in Itself: Museo Parian

A Relic in Itself: Museo Parian

Heritage and SitesHeritage and SitesEnveloped in a modest façade of the ordinary-looking Ho Tong Hardware situated at the navel of the old Parian district, the one-time center of Cebu City, the Museo Parian (a.k.a. ‘Jesuit House’) is the oldest dated house in the Philippines.

Though bearing the inscription ‘Año 1730’ written on a circular tablet carved at the top of the door separating the main receiving area and the dining area, the widely known Jesuit House’s history following the habitation of the Jesuit priests in the 18th century traces its existence way back to the Ming Dynasty, when the old Parian district (currently called Parian) was predominantly inhabited by Chinese settlers. Evidence of the house’s original Chinese ownership were confirmed by the opulent Chinese-inspired carvings on the rafter and trusses, broken ceramics, some old coins, including the old coin unearthed in one of the original posts of the house dating back to the Ming Dynasty during the extensive yet meticulous restoration works carried out by the current owner. In addition, the overall edifice of the house itself pointed out the era of its construction. It was built using coral stones from the ground up, which signified that its building was prior to the Spanish era. It is to be noted that the Spanish government restrained the construction of houses solidly in coral stones from the base to the second floor to prevent possible enormous damage, following some major earthquakes and typhoons experienced in the country.

From the unidentified Chinese owner, Museo Parian’s possession was transferred to a Spanish tobacco firm worker before it served as the home of the Jesuits in Cebu until they were ousted out of the country in 1768. Following the deportation of the Jesuits, the Spanish auctioned the house which resulted to the acquisition of Don Luis Alvarez, the great-grandfather of Msgr. Cristobal Garcia, an avid collector of ivory artifacts. Several years though, the house transferred from one owner to another until it was purchased by the Villa family, and finally by the current owner, the Sy family.

Just as the house had adjusted and accommodated its many different owners, its interiors and structure as well had metamorphosed. Over the years, it received add-ons and upgrades in the form of ‘lattice works, louvers, grilled windows minus the welding works (snaps and rivets were used to fasten the grid irons together instead), and newspapers painted with mint green coating that served as the wallpaper to cover the cracks as well as the joints. In fact, a chipped off ‘wallpaper’ in one of the rooms exposed the ‘original’ plaster of the room—a page of the Los Angeles newspaper dated 1946!

A Walk Inside the Museum

The museum’s colorful history is echoed within its walls and interior. The house-museum is actually composed of two adjacent two-story houses. The basement is divided into three parts—all served as the mini-gallery and museum. The first compartment features a model of the old Parian district, maps, and photos, while the second room accommodates the unearthed artifacts and relics plus the miniscule models of the galleons and some photos introducing some parts of the history of Cebu and the presence of the Spaniards, and finally, the third division highlights the history of the Jesuit congregation from its formation down to its presence in the Philippines.

On the second floor are the main receiving area of House A, with the master’s bedroom, and another guest room which displays the model of the structure of the house. To go to House B, one has to pass through the covered passage leading to the lanai, a place where the Jesuits used to relax for their ‘siesta’, the dining area which accommodates the long dining table made of a single hardwood trunk, a century-old cedar chest box, some antique cash register, and typewriter. In between the lanai and the dining room is the dirty kitchen with an old ‘baggera’ (traditional dish dryer).

The Museum’s Legacy

The museum’s unkempt countenance from the exterior vantage is quite deceptive that one could easily regard it as one rickety construction that needs to be demolished. However, one’s impression of the ramshackle house is guaranteed to drastically change when one gets inside and starts his/her journey of reliving the past. One could not resist the exquisite charm the house-museum possesses, as one sets out on the pleasant journey back to one’s colorful past as narrated by the walls, structure, and interiors of the fascinating Museo Parian–a relic in itself.

The Road Not Taken


by Robert Frost (1874-1963)

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.


The Secret of Happiness


A certain shopkeeper sent his son to learn about the secret of happiness from the wisest man in the world. The lad wandered through the desert for forty days, and finally came upon a beautiful castle, high atop a mountain. It was there that the wise man lived.

Rather than finding a saintly man, though, our hero, on entering the main room of the castle, saw a hive of activity: tradesmen came and went, people were conversing in the corners, a small orchestra was playing soft music, and there was a table covered with platters of the most delicious food in that part of the world. The wise man conversed with everyone, and the boy had to wait for two hours before it was his turn to be given the man’s attention.

The wise man listened attentively to the boy’s explanation of why he had come, but told him that he didn’t have time just then to explain the secret of happiness. He suggested that the boy look around the palace and return in two hours.

“Meanwhile, I want to ask you to do something,” said the wise man, handing the boy a teaspoon that two drops of oil. “As you wander around, carry this spoon with you without allowing the oil to spill.”

The boy began climbing and descending the many stairways of the palace, keeping his eyes fixed on the spoon. After two hours, he returned to the room where the wise man was.

“Well,” asked the wise man, “did you see the Persian tapestries that are hanging in my dining hall? Did you see the garden that it took the master gardener ten years to create? Did you notice the beautiful parchments in my library?”

The boy was embarrassed, and confessed that he had observed nothing. His only concern had been not to spill the oil that the wise man had entrusted to him.

“Then go back and observe the marvels of my world,” said the wise man. “You cannot trust a man if you don’t know his house.”

Relieved, the boy picked up the spoon and returned to his exploration of the palace, this time observing all of the works of art on the ceilings and the walls. He saw the gardens, the mountains all around him, the beauty of the flowers and the taste with which everything had been selected. Upon returning to the wise man, he related in detail everything he had seen.

“But where are the drops of oil I entrusted to you?” asked the wise man.

Looking down at the spoon he held, the boy saw that the oil was gone.

“Well, there is only one piece of advice I can give you,” said the wisest of wise men. “The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels  of the world, and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon.”